Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Saturday, 19 September 2009



Digital clock changing number
s: photo by Beyond silence, 2007

The clock at the bedside, mutilated like all things today, in these times, had no hands, only bright red numbers, which went on displaying themselves all night, one after another, 3:48, 3:49 and so on, as long as there was electric power. Usually there was. Often he wondered what it would be like to be blind. Life would go on in the dark just the same except for the numbers, they would cease to exist.

Leap second (drawing showing what a digital watch should show during a leap second): image by Twid/Stannered, 2005


Mariana Soffer said...

I liked this a lot, a lot raelly. I was wondering, I always do, If it woudnt be great to be able to rewind time, but just for that cases, just for when you want to sleep for some more time.

Lots of luck and good wishes

TC said...

Yes, now would be a good time in fact. Haven't slept since Sunday morning, time to rewind the clock.

(By the way Mariana, I've always marveled at how you seem to manage not only to get by, but to do vast brain work as well, on very little sleep; whatever the secret of that is, you ought to bottle it!)

(Must now go consult a pillow.)

u.v.ray said...

Tom, I've noticed by the times you post on here that you must have trouble sleeping. It's almost as if I wrote this one just for you. Actually, I might dedicate it to you in my fortcoming book! It's entitled Insomnia - hope you don't mind me posting it here:

Opening a tin
of peach halves in sweet syrup
(net weight 14 Oz).

I’m waiting for the holocaust

with eyes dilated.

Staring through the window
these myriad stars
I’ve so laboriously counted,

as the TV strobes the room
bathing the walls in neon blue

and telegraphing more bland news
at 3 O clock
in a lost and fragmented morning.

TC said...


There is no consolation greater than hearing from a fellow sufferer. This gets the feeling exactly:

I’m waiting for the holocaust

with eyes dilated.

Would almost be tempted to say that insomnia is good for poetry were I not acutely aware that it is good for nothing.

More like the truth would be: UV Ray is a fine poet who makes good poems despite the fact he suffers from insomnia.

Insomnia, like all things, can be suitable subject matter in the right hands. And those are the tin-opening hands of an insomniac.

Well... sweet dreams, my brother.

(By the way, I'd have got back to you earlier were it not for the fact that, sometime in the wee hours, I was gifted by a rare visitation of the Goddess of Shuteye.)

Kraxpelax said...

What Me Bumbler, about
what!? Don't mention it again, forget
the past and get a life kinda
Decent Well Nigh Citizen, huh? Recall the shit.
And so you say, TWANG! That's QuickTime,
wouldn't call it sucha good idea though,
you know, been kinda thinkin' lately,
kinda finding my way home sweet home,
to put the plight stately
t'was never ever my clever policy to be
or not to be, you know, in the kinda blue,
kinda takin', you know, GREAT
great never toodledoo overdue late
care not to bother anybody kinda
motherfuckin' nevermore, that's
IT. Hark! you know, we gotta leave.
We gotta join the Communist
Wackadoo Party for the case of junk food,
somethin' like that. Gimme another one.
Uhuh, nevermind, just you go take
some pretty damn good blind date not
to think real deal things over, k?
I wouldn't call this Time too goddamn
remarkable, you know, no, you,
err, know, Einstein, that's me. What about you
too? Wanna tallymebanana, wanna
fuck? Wanna be? Wanna kinda pedigree? Hell
YES! We gotta join, you know, the Communist Party.


At Single Swingle.

- Peter Ingestad, Sweden

TC said...

Well, umm, er...

Let's just say one is always curious about, often fascinated and sometimes terrified by testimony from one's fellow "insomniac maniacs" (to borrow a term of not-quite-endearment from the person in this house who actually sleeps).

Wackadoodles all round, then.

As those who've been looking in here for a while will know, I've been on about this before, as e.g.:

"This diminishing of things..."

In case it helps any, Peter, there is a rich (?) tradition of restless poetic night-trawling.

Perhaps the most memorable locus is in Keats:

To Sleep

O soft embalmer of the still midnight!
Shutting, with careful fingers and benign,
Our gloom-pleas'd eyes, embower'd from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine;
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close,
In midst of this thine hymn, my willing eyes.
Or wait the Amen, ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities;
Then save me, or the passed day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes;
Save me from curious conscience, that still hoards
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed casket of my soul.

And of course Keats's spiritual godfather, Shakespeare, had to have known a few sleepless nights in order to produce Macbeth II.i:


I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep,”--the innocent sleep;
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast.

What do you mean?

They're always asking that. And their advice is often good:
You do unbend your noble strength to think
So brainsickly of things.--Go get some water.

May said...

Interesting photos, especially the first. I wish I had thought of that.

TC said...

Welcome, May--at last, my first Wittgenstein aficionada!

Anonymous said...

My comment got eaten by the 'Blog' monster and I can't remember what I put now! *sigh*
I think insomnia is totally over rated though! After many turns of the Moon I have learnt not to fight her, but embrace her.
This is about more than insomnia I am thinking. It is about words/thoughts that keep insomnia in play.
Tips before bed:
No computer (keeps the brain too active)
No caffine
Camomile Tea
Hot milk and Whiskey
Lavender pillow
Warm baths
Soothing music (no punk or heavy metal)
Counting sheep
Exercising until completely knackered
Etc, etc, etc, etc.
Of course nowt works. Ha!
But someone once told me, you have to trick her. Trick her into believing you are just falling asleep (as those seems to be the moments of 'sleep easy'}. So when you know the trick, tell me; please!

Anonymous said...

BTW I am liking how your words make me think *dance*

TC said...

Sarah A,

Your second comment first -- the highest compliment!

And as to the elusiveness of slumber...

Those sound brilliant remedies all, almost as wonderful as sleep itself -- in fact the remedies might even be better than sleep, there are so many of them they might well keep one awake in a deeply pleasured warm state of awakeness all night. Thus of course defeating their own purpose.

The insomnia would set in with redoubled force next day naturally, but still they can't take away the remedies once having doled them out. Whoever they are.

The inexorable changing of the red digital clock numbers in the middle of the night I find a comparatively poor sleep inducer. You refer to that old run-up maneuver to inducing a soporific state which was to imagine sheep jumping over a stile. And one would count them. And this counting would become so tiresome, one would fall asleep. I remember as a child going into surgeries and being told to count to ten. One could never reach ten before the anesthesia had set in. There the numbers stopped existing. And there was the cartoon image of a person sawing wood in his sleep, z-z-z-z-z. In the cartoons it always seemed important to count the number of z's, as though the number held the key to the something -- well, the sleep. Even then, insomnia mania, incipient.

No, as you say, nowt helps.

Zephirine said...

I'm glad to say that I've never suffered badly from insomnia, but I have found on occasions of stress keeping me awake that the hot milk and whisky recipe works very well indeed.

But I do find that a bright digital bedside clock will stop me sleeping. Nasty things , 'mutilated' is right. Much better to have an old-fashioned wind-up one that has hands and a quiet reassuring tick in the night.

Anonymous said...

Ok I forgot to mention. The 100% success of curing insomnia is known as 'the hammer over the head' Works every time! I do not lie!

TC said...


Lucky you. Nothing better for sleep than a clear conscience, stress notwithstanding.

Couldn't agree more, the red light digitals are an abomination.

In the house of my Irish grandather there was at the foot of the stairs from the bedrooms to the main floor a tall grandfather clock, indeed it was as tall as my grandfather. And as a child I believed him to be the tallest person I'd ever seen.

The clock struck hourly, as such mechanisms are wont to do.

When living there I would lay awake at night listening to traffic of cars and more distantly trains in the night; and every hour the lovely subdued time-gentling clockchimes. At four sets of them my grandfather arose to go to off to the police department, his place of work.

TC said...


(Please excuse; my keyboard has been running away from me these past few sleepless nights; and it may not be the only thing. On the other hand, I didn't fix it because I kind of like the way your name looks spelled that way.)

Curious you should mention it, it's two:forty five in the morning right now and that hammer is clanging in my head with every typed word. I realize that you do not lie. I'm sure it works. Probably just takes several hours in hard cases.

Just keep that hammer away from your Babies on sleepless nights not to mention that deeply benighted Mr. Sir. There are stern laws in regard to these things after all!

Stu said...

I love this piece, Tom.

I can relate, although I'm only an occasional insomniac. I got rid of the digital alarm clock in the bedroom, because I figured it was a barrier to sleep. The temptation to open your eyes, to see what time it is, how long you've been lying awake, how many hours left until you have to get up...

Getting back to your title though, I find meditating before bed can assist the falling asleep process. Although some people find if they go straight to bed after meditating they'll be too alert, too awake...

TC said...


I envy your discipline.

I attempt to approach sleep by a sort of half-cocked two part meditation exercise.

First part is trying to breathe calmly. Sounds easy; can take hours.

Next, let the thoughts move as they will until hopefully they mutate unto unplanned images.

At that point drift becomes possible. Sometimes sleep can be caught be surprise.

Oh, and try never to look at the red numbers on the digital cock. Just starts the old left brain ticking again, that.

( I talk a good game of this, but it works maybe one time in six.)

TC said...

With that response to Stu, posted at the brilliant hour of 5:05 A.M, I have shown (as I discover) that among the interesting effects of sleep deprivation can be the inadvertent howler or two left in one's own comments box.

Just so everybody knows I do NOT, no matter how exhausted, find red numbers on a "digital cock"(!!).